Twitter me this…why use Twitter for school communication?

Twitter me this…

Why would an administrator want to take on the headache of using social media with their parents and community?  What if I asked if you, as an administrator, would like to have more communication with your parents, keep them updated and alerted to any and all important school news, while only taking up a fraction of your time?

Twitter provides just such an opportunity. Our parents today are busy.  It’s not always like it used to be with a mom waiting at home with a snack to go through a weekly folder and help with homework. Today’s mom and dad’s may be working more than one job. They may be working late into the evening. They may have more than one student to come home and help. Even the most traditional of families can become buried underneath the responsibilities of soccer, dance, and Girl Scouts. Recognizing the different dynamics of what our students are going home to can help guide how we communicate with them all. Providing the same information in as many mediums as possible can only help ensure that we are reaching as many parents as we can.

How do I envision Twitter as an asset? It allows your tech savvy parents who are involved with social media a way to get current and timely information. Sending reminders about picture day, school closures, make-up days…things that parents are concerned about can be short and sweet.

In a world where anything can happen, and information travels SO fast, Twitter allows for timely communication. Emergencies happen and while not life pressing, to a parent, having a concern immediately taken care of can be gratifying. We had a situation one year where there was a fire in the kitchen. No students were ever in danger, but to the neighborhood surrounding us, seeing the campus swarmed with fire trucks and district personnel can be unnerving. An “all call” went out to parents that afternoon, but we had several concerned calls in the interim. Twitter would have calmed & clarified the situation immediately.

Every week a stack of reminders are sent home. Tests, pictures, events, policies, etc…we send them home in bulk at certain times of the year. A tweet is only 140 characters. Short and sweet.  “ Free dress tomorrow.”  “Don’t forget to return your library books.” “ 2nd grade field trip, bring your lunch!” All the things a teacher wishes she could call and remind each parent of the day before. May not be worth another sheet a paper, but a tweet? Absolutely.

Not all of our parents are on Twitter. Recognizing that there would be a learning curve is ok. SOME of our parents are in that space. SOME might be inclined to look into it knowing that it was offered. SOME might take advantage of the “Fast Follow” option that Twitter provides, which sends texts of tweets. In fact, sending a text was originally the only way users could tweet. This is why tweets are 140 characters — they need to fit into a text message. Anyone in the US can receive Tweets as texts on their phone even if they haven’t signed up for Twitter. This is a simple way for people to get information they care about in real-time.

If you don’t have a Twitter account (and don’t want one!) you can still find out what is happening through these text messages. (Standard messaging rates apply.)

To get started text: “Follow @username” to 40404 and you will start receiving tweets from that user on your device. You can turn off receiving updates by sending “STOP @username” to 40404. 

They won’t need a Twitter account or to sign up for anything. This will require some training, but it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t text these days. Providing training would be worth the results each year. We started every meeting with a simple “Hey everyone! Pull out your cellphone! Let’s make sure you are getting hot off the press info from us!”

Twitter is not the silver bullet that will allow seamless communication between school and home. What it will do is provide another opportunity for educators to reach out to the parents and attempt to bridge the disconnect between school life and home life. If it also opens a door to discussing social media, cyber behavior, or having an online presence? Even better.

 

Tweetingly,

Amber

Comments

  1. Jay posick says

    Great post, Amber. And don’t forget, you can put a link to twitter on your website so that parents can check out twitter without signing up, too.
    Love the texting idea, too!
    Jay

  2. says

    Amber,

    THANK YOU! I never knew this was possible, but I believe it is a simple first step to helping people become more aware of the power of twitter. Most, if not all parents text, it only makes sense that a tweet would come to them via text message.

    I’m sure to share this out early in the year. Thank you for the tip and the post.

    -Ben

  3. says

    Hi Amber,
    Thank you for a great post! I am going to include it in the letter I am sending home this year to the parents of students in my classes. One question, thought. Does the same thing work for a hashtag? It would be great if parents could follow their student’s class hashtag rather than having to sift through my tweets and retweets. Thanks again.

    • says

      Hi Dan! Non Twitter’ers can go to the campus accounts twitter homepage to see tweets or can search by a hashtag in the search bar…however, after a certain amount of time the tweets wont show up on a hashtag search. They’ll still be on your accounts homepage tho, :)
      I reccommend using Storify to aggregate tweets every so often for non-twitter’ers to have access to as well. Or you could create an IfTTT recipe tht archives each of your sent tweets tht parents can access!

      Thanks for readN and commentN!

      • KStarr says

        And of course you can use a widget (see the Widgets tab under Settings in Twitter) to display your most current tweets on your web page – another way non-Twitter users can view your tweets.
        Glad to know about the Fast Follow option. For those already on Twitter, you’re utilizing a platform with which you’re already familiar, rather than using yet another resource like Remind or Celly (also text-based).

  4. Joy says

    Thank you for reminding us that there are simple ways to connect with families for those quick reminders and how we can navigate that for them without having to sign up for Twitter.

  5. says

    Great post! I didn’t know about the texting to follow a twitter account. That would be so useful for a lot of my parents. This encourages me to make a class specific Twitter account. Do you of a specific IFTTT recipe to post tweets on a Google Site?

  6. Judy Janssen says

    Our district PR person sent a survey to staff last spring asking for feedback. One of the comments I made was that we should be using Twitter more! As the computer lab person, I don’t have a single class list (well, 400+ student list!) but I will share this with the classroom teachers in my building. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Araceli!
      If a teacher is using a class account to just share info with parents, then a separate account may be beneficial, especially when being cognizant of how many tweets are being sent. Twitter also allows for two way communication, :)

  7. Tammy says

    Yes, I do agree that lots of parents would like to get info from Twitter! I’ll try it at my open house! Thanks!

  8. says

    I had no idea you could get tweets as texts. Great idea and very timely as we are branching out into the Twitter-sphere at my school this year. I will definitely share this with my colleagues.

    Janice Driscoll

  9. says

    The days of paper notes going home is almost extinct. Twitter is a fast and easy way to communicate not only with your parents but with the whole community.

  10. Nora Crist says

    I did not know that you could receive tweets as texts. Wow! I definitely see this a tool I can use to improve communication with parents and colleagues. Thank-you for sharing!!

  11. says

    I really like this and did not know it. Thanks for he tip. I plan on using it with a class Twitter account so parents can keep up to date with what we are doing in class as we connect with other classes. Then they won’t get spammed with my tweets during a twitter chat. Also, I can use Remind, ClassDojo, emails, and phone calls to supplement.

  12. Cari says

    Great post! This option may be a good work around for parents that don’t have twitter accounts! I will share this with my coworkers!

  13. Cassie says

    I LOVE the idea of using fast follow to communicate with parents who are not on Twitter…I can also see this as being a useful way to communicate with other teachers not on Twitter to let them know what is going on in the library. Thanks for sharing!

  14. says

    Great post about communication with parents and the school community. I like that twitter is free and that communication and be timely. It is a great alternative to email as the info is public, does not require following unless the user wants to follow, Thanks for the post

  15. Mary Morgan Ryan says

    Great tip about receiving tweets as text messages. I’m forwarding your post to our district communications director to publicize re: district Twitter account.

  16. jan Johnson says

    I love the tweet/text idea. I am thinking of using it next year, with my tech club, then introducing the principal and parents to the idea.

  17. Susan says

    Great post…I am waiting on my district to start using Twitter. I requested unblocking it for classroom use and received a question back, “What would you use it for?”

  18. Jennifer says

    I am just now beginning to use Twitter more. I think this is a great addition for communicating with parents. I will definitely be adding this to my newsletter or meet the teacher. Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Hi Meg! I would suggest a campus handle, for generic use, a classroom handle for classroom learning and collaborating, and then a teacher handle for personal PD. :)

  19. Erika says

    Thanks for the blog! How can I get my principal on board to use twitter. I have approached with many different reasons. What was the turning point for you? Any ideas? Thanks

  20. Louis T says

    Great tip with the Fast Follow. This will be useful for parents (we have many) who text, but don’t use (or want to use) twitter. Most parents still prefer email and Facebook communications, abut this is another venue. What jumps to mind is sharing this with our Athletic Director – we have a twitter account for score updates and schedule changes – now if people signup for text messages, they may prefer that method. Every parent text messages, because that is the best way to ensure your child communicates with you :-)

    Question: When someone signs up for Fast Follow Text messaging, will you know that? does it show up as another follower? Somehow would be nice to know how many parents/faculty actually use that method so we can update our school’s communication plan.

    Also, thanks for doing the #SummerLS (smores) video. Another great tool. Now following you on Twitter!

  21. says

    Amber, thank you for this post! I really like the Fast Follow option and having tweets sent as texts is a great way for parents to get the information quickly without creating tension among those hesitant to have their own Twitter accounts. I will definitely be sharing this with my colleagues!

  22. Heather t. says

    Wonderful read! Since being involved in the #summerLS I have created a Twitter account. After spending time on it this summer, I’m not only going to use it for my own benefit, but also to communicate with parents. My team is even working on implementing Twitter into our classrooms to get our Kinder kiddos tweeting on a classroom handle!

  23. cassie R. says

    Thank you for the information about Fast Follow – I did not know this was an option with Twitter, and will definitely have to try it out. Thanks again!

  24. says

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  25. Lisa Patton says

    As noted by many others, I love the text/twitter option for parents. However, I “tested” it with my secretary and we can’t get it to work. We get the initial text reply – welcome to twitter, but when I post something, she isn’t receiving it. Any suggestions?

  26. Lisa Patton says

    Thank you Amber for your call the other day. We finally figured it out. Follow must be in all caps and there needs to be a space before @

    Thank you for taking time out of you busy day to help me!

    I’m so excited you shared this. Everyone I’ve spoken to did not know you could get tweets as a text message.

  27. Andrea says

    Wow! I had never heard of Fast Follow. I will definitely be forwarding that information to my teachers and our PR people!

  28. Liz Griesbach says

    I love the idea of a tweet, but I have 2 twitter names one is personal and one for education. How can I get my education followers on to the correct account instead of my personal one?

    • says

      Well…I think you would just start promoting and pushing the account you want them to follow. If you’re using it with your Ss & Ps, make sure you are intentional about what you share and when you share it. :) you dont want to overwhelm them with texts/tweets, ya know?

  29. Karen DeMent says

    Great idea! Parents always have their phones with them and it’s a great way to connect with them. I have stacks of papers that some parents never read or take out of a folder, but they would read the reminders in a text or tweet.

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